If good instrumental music is intended to paint a scene within the listener’s mind, then Timothy Wenzel’s River Serene is most definitely good instrumental music. In 12 pieces spread over a scant 49 minutes, Wenzel presents tone poems based around the themes of water, love, light and dreams. Each theme is represented by three pieces, and the mood overall is soft and reflective. Wenzel’s piano is the star of the show here, but it’s surrounded by a superb electro-acoustic supporting cast. Harps and flutes, strings and drums, all come together to tell the stories. I have promised myself I’d try to step around the term “New Age” going forward in favor of the term “contemporary instrumental,” but River Serene slots easily into that sleeve. Crisp and romantic, quietly paced, and packed with musical optimism. This is music you’ve heard before, but it’s all quite beautifully made. The title track, which comes in early on, is something of a soul-cleanser. Piano and pizzicato harp notes blossom out into full orchestration, with flute coursing high above. The sound imagery here is perfect, the mood encapsulated in the notes. Wenzel’s piano swells in big, neo-classical fashion, packing shades of Richard Clayderman, on “A Midnight Rose.” (A little roll of the tympani adds drama.) There is something going on in “A Twilight Pause” that resonates in me as a listener, and I cannot adequately describe what it is. Soft string pads wash beneath the piano as it takes a slow walk–perhaps that’s it; there’s a slight sense of melancholy here, of a departure being made. Sax-like synth sounds wail a melody with just a hint of 80s flair. The moody tone carries into “Night Train,” which also picks up a little bit of a syncopated groove as it winds toward its close.
River Serene is going to be a big winner with New Age fans. It’s firmly rooted in that style. It’s light without being wispy, a lovely end-of-day album. Wenzel is getting better with each new release. Keep an ear on him. (A new release is slated for December ’14.)
Available from the artist’s web site.